All Halifax County Public School students will continue to operate in a fully distance learning format next week.

Monday had previously been the day that county school buildings could have reopened to a select group of students who had previously returned to in-person instruction for a brief period of time, but with COVID-19 numbers not improving as rapidly as the school system would like, Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg has decided to hold off opening buildings for at least another week.

He originally shut down facilities on Nov. 17 due to an increase of COVID-19 cases.

At that time, the Centers for Disease Control said the 14-day average positivity rate for Halifax County was at 11.8%, and Lineburg said that rate had only dropped to 11.7% as of Wednesday.

Any 14-day average positivity rate over 10% puts a county in the highest risk category, according to the superintendent, and when in the highest risk category, the Virginia Department of Health recommends schools operate using a fully distance-learning model.

Previously, the Halifax County School Board had approved to allow special education students, English learners and students by appointment to come into the school buildings for face-to-face instruction and for athletes to begin sports conditioning.

With that in mind, Lineburg said, “I don’t see that I have the authority to make this long term for those groups.”

So, he and head nurse Tina Slabach plan to continue to look at the health numbers daily to see when it will be safe to bring those students back.

He noted that in the four years that he’s been here, he’s “always been cautious with the safety of students, teachers and staff.”

The superintendent also praised the work of Slabach saying she is diligent and works hard to stay in tune to the health factors of the county.

“There’s not a day that goes by that she doesn’t look at the numbers and talks with the Virginia Department of Health. She has the best information on the spot, and she is a fantastic person for our division. I’m really proud of her,” said Lineburg.

For those who were previously allowed into the school buildings, their parents should be receiving phone calls about continuing distanced learning, and updates are posted to the school system’s Facebook page.

The only students who will be allowed into the buildings at this time are students needing evaluations for special education determination. Those students will be scheduled by appointment only.

Packet delivery and food delivery and pickup will continue as scheduled.

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com